The stories themselves are quite ancient and may be among the first Buddhist texts ever committed to writing, but this particular collection of them is not attested before the seventeenth century.
The stories involve the Buddha teaching to a group of disciples how a particular individual, through actions in a previous life, came to have a particular karmic result in the present.
A predominant theme is vast merit (puṇya) collected from making offerings to rational beings or at stupas and other holy sites related to the Buddha.
The anthology contains 38 Avadana stories in all, including the well-known Aśokāvadāna “Legend of Aśoka”, which was translated into English by John Strong (Princeton, 1983).
The collection has been known since it was selected in Eugène Burnouf‘s history of Indian Buddhism (1844). The first Western edition of Sanskrit text was published in 1886 by Edward Byles Cowell and R.A. Neil. And in 1959, the Sanskrit text was again edited by P. L. Vaidya.
Stories of Divyavadana
In the opening paragraphs of Sahasodgata-avadāna, Buddha’s instructions for creating the Bhavacakra (wheel of life) were described.
Rudrāyaṇa-avadāna describes how the Buddha gave the first example of the Buddha to King Rudrayaṇa. According to this story, at the time of the Buddha, King Rudrayana (a.k.a. King Udayana) offered a gift of a jeweled robe to King Bimbisara of Magadha.
King Bimbisara was concerned that he did not have anything of equivalent value to offer as a gift in return. To get the advice, Bimbisara went to Buddha. Buddha gave directions to have the first drawing of the Buddha himself send the drawing to Rudrayana. It is said that Rudrayana attained realization through seeing this picture.
List of Stories
This is the list of stories contained in the Divyāvadāna:
- Prātihārya-sūtra (The miracles at Śrāvastī)
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